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DECLARER missed an easy way of improving his chances on this deal and, as so often seems to be the case (otherwise the hand would never appear in a column]), it made all the difference between success and failure.

South opened One Spade and North made the limit response of Two No-trumps (11-12 points). An excellent case could be made for South simply raising to Three No-trumps - after all, he can supply at least six tricks and surely partner should be able to scramble the other three? - but instead he bid the game in spades.

West led the eight of hearts against Four Spades, dummy played low, and East encouraged with the nine. The play was soon over. After drawing trumps declarer led a club but West took his ace, cashed his ace of diamonds, and pushed another heart through for his partner to take two more tricks.

It would not have worked if the minor suit aces had been divided between the two defenders but consider the effect of playing dummy's queen of hearts on the opening lead. If East does not take his ace, declarer loses only one heart, while if East wins and returns a heart he can never get in to enjoy a second heart trick.

'I thought of that]' claimed South. 'But the lead might have been a singleton]' No one appreciated his argument, least of all dummy, for if the lead had been a singleton, the contract would have stood no chance whatsoever and might easily have gone two off.

Love all; dealer South North S J 9 H Q 4 2 D K J 9 27 C K Q 10 4 West S 8 7 5 4 H 8 3 D A Q 8 5 C A 6 5 East S 2 H A J 10 9 6 D 6 4 3 2 C 8 7 2 South S A K Q 10 6 3 H K 7 5 D 10 C J 9 3